The benefits of using products containing kojic acid may include the following:
- Anti-aging effect: Products containing kojic acid may lighten the skin, which can improve the appearance of age spots and sun damage. The reduction of dark spots can have an anti-aging effect.
- Treat melasma: Kojic acid may also be helpful in decreasing melasma, which is darkening of the skin due to pregnancy.
- Decrease the appearance of scars: Kojic acid may also reduce the discoloration of scars. Although the acid does not improve the thickness of scar tissue, it may reduce dark pigmentation associated with certain types of scars. Lightening the scar may make it less noticeable.
- Antifungal benefits: Kojic acid is also thought to have some antifungal benefits. It may be helpful in preventing and treating certain fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot and yeast infections.
- Antibacterial effects: Kojic acid may also provide antibacterial benefits. It may help decrease the chances of developing common types of bacterial skin infections.
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What is Kojic Acid?
Kojic Acid is a chemical and chelation agent produced by many fungi species such as mushrooms, and especially Aspergillus oryzae, which has the Japanese common name Koji. It is a by-product of fermentation during the malting of rice, which is then used in the manufacture of sake, the Japanese rice wine, and soy sauce. Kojic Acid serves as a natural preservative booster in the food industry and also preserves colours in the various formulations of food products.
Kojic Acid is an off-white crystalline powder which is soluble in water, alcohol and acetone; slightly soluble in ether, ethyl acetate, chloroform and pyridine; and insoluble in most other solvents. Crystallisation can occur in acetone and ethyl acetate solvent or in 150 to 200℃ vacuum sublimation.
Other than its use in the food industry, one of Kojic Acid’s primary benefits is in health and cosmetic industries where it is used as a skin lightening agent to visibly improve skin damage such as scarring and sun damage. This is due to its ability to prevent the formation of the melanin producing amino acid, tyrosine, a protein also known as tyrosinase. Melanin is the primary pigment found in all skins, and as Kojic Acid inhibits tyrosinase protein’s ability to make melanin, so the acid prevents skin pigmentation. This results in lightening the tone of the skin by limiting the production of melanin in the skin tissues. Skin lightening creams and cleansers that contain Kojic Acid can be used for various skin conditions causing discolouration such as freckles, hyperpigmentation, scars caused by acne and dark spots which can sometimes be quite obvious when skin darkening occurs as a result of aging. Kojic Acid also has both anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and can be effective in both these conditions. Bacterial conditions may occur in acne and even small dilutions of Kojic Acid can be used to treat these infections. It is also useful in the treatment of fungal infections such as candidiasis, ringworm or athlete’s foot and other yeast infections.
Kojic Acid is safe to use in very small quantities of 1 to 2% concentrations in creams and cleansers. As this is an acid substance it can have side effects such as contact dermatitis which may manifest as redness, irritation, itchiness, rashes or swelling of the skin areas. Some people do experience a degree of discomfort and even pain. In any of these circumstances the use of the Kojic Acid product must be discontinued immediately. All areas showing any of these symptoms need to be washed thoroughly to remove all traces of the product. The use of Kojic Acid is not recommended to completely lighten any person’s complexion and it must never be used on damaged or broken skin such as an open wound. Kojic Acid can also affect the colour of both hair and eyes. Long-term use of Kojic Acid skin products tends to make the skin more susceptible to sunburn, so it is imperative to always use a sun screen as well as protective clothing.
Kojic Acid is considered to be safe in general; however, there is the possibility of having various side effects and the risks associated with Kojic Acid products.
Sensitivity to Sun: As melanin acts as the body’s normal skin protection from the sun and its UV rays, a person using Kojic Acid products is more likely to get sunburnt.
Contact Dermatitis: Products that have a high concentration of Kojic Acid may cause contact dermatitis – this may be a rash, itching, dry skin patches or even pain due to blistering.
Cosmetic products are not regulated by the FDA
It is imperative to ensure that any skin products containing Kojic Acid are safe before using them.
Cosmetic products are not regulated in the same way as medicines and foods are and are not required by law to be approved by th FDA before being sold.
The FDA has a voluntary registration program for cosmetic manufacturers in which companies can report how their products are made. Also, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel reviews safety.
The CIR Expert Panel agreed that kojic acid could be safely used in cosmetic products.
It is advisable not to use raw Kojic Acid for any skin condition. This acid must be diluted to nothing more than 4%; however, the recommended concentration is 1 to 2% which decreases the possibility of a skin irritation.
Ideally always use Kojic Acid creams and cleansers that are pre-made correctly.